With many people taking up running or increasing the amount they’re running or walking there is a possibility of experiencing foot pain, commonly caused by Plantar Fasciitis.
What is it?
This is a very common strain or tear on the underside of the foot resulting in pain in the heel which can radiate across the sole of the foot and up into the calf muscles. It can be more painful first thing in the morning especially when bounding out of bed to start your day 😆 and trying to put your foot flat on the floor.
Where is it?
The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs along the arch of your foot connecting the heel bone to the bones in your toes. It is the largest ligament in your body.
What can cause it?
The most common causes are
Over use from high impact exercises such as running, jumping etc
Increase in high impact exercise
Wearing unsupportive or badly fitting shoes/trainers
Weak or tight calf muscles
Previous injury to the Achilles tendon or calf muscles
What can I do about it?
With any medical condition you should always initially seek advice from a medical professional (I am not one of those).
At first the pain may be very acute and resting the affected leg is important.
When the pain has lessened there are some stretches and strengthening exercises that you can do.
Towel Toe Curls
Stand on a hard floor with a towel, tea towel, small blanket or scarf under one foot. Curling your toes to grab the towel pull it as far under your foot as possible.
Toe extension & massage
Sitting down so that you can reach your foot. Flex your foot and grab your toes, gently pulling them back to further the stretch. With the other hand gently massage the full length of the arch of your foot
Standing calf stretch
Towel foot stretch
Sitting with your leg extended in front of you, hook a towel over the top of your foot and gently pull the ball of your foot towards you whilst pushing your heel away from you. Hold for 30 seconds and release. Repeat 5-10 times.
Calf stretch on step
You can perform this stretch with both feet or just one foot at a time. Stand on a step with the balls of your feet on the step and your heel hanging off. Ensure you have something to hold onto for balance. Rise up onto your toes as high as possible. Slowly lower your heels so the go past the step. Repeat 15-20 times.
You will need a firm ball like a tennis or cricket ball. You can purchase massage balls online. You can do this seated or standing, you will be applying extra pressure when standing. Place the ball under your foot and roll it around from the heel, across the arch and up to the toes. If you find a tender spot hold the ball there and try to exhale and relax to help release the tension.
Seated calf raises
You can perform this stretch with both feet or just one foot at a time. Sit at the front of a chair so that both feet are flat on the ground. Rise up to your toes and lower back down. Repeat 15-20 times. To increase the intensity you can place your hands on your knees and push down. You can also add a slow lower phase by rising up and then counting down the lower starting anywhere from 3 up to 10.
Standing calf raises
You can perform this stretch with both feet or just one foot at a time. Stand facing a wall or counter with your hands resting for balance. Rise up to your toes and lower back down. Repeat 15-20 times. To increase the intensity you can add weight in a backpack. You can also add a slow lower phase by rising up and then counting down the lower starting anywhere from 3 up to 10.
Depending on the severity, Plantar Fasciitis can take anywhere from a few weeks to 18 months to get better. It is important when doing the above exercises and stretches that you do not try to push through any sharp pain.
Performing the exercises gently and regularly and progressing them as you are able will aid the recovery and also help to prevent further injury. With that said these exercises can also be performed purely for preventative measures as part of a warm-up or cool-down when exercising.
If you attend classes or have a personal trainer ensure you let them know of any injuries so that they may adapt any exercises to suit and may also incorporate some helpful exercises for you.